Closer Look at Canby’s Cozy Architecture

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Cottage Revival

Community: Architecture
By Gretchen Van Lente, Contributing Writer

Canby is well known for its cozy cottage-style architecture. Tourists cruise the residential streets just to bask in the small-town vibe. But what does it mean to come from such a “mise-en-scène” and call it home? It’s not as simple as it looks, though simplicity is a theme.

After World War II, people began longing for the architecture of the past and a return to simpler times. The prevailing idea was to incorporate the very best of architectural style and to infuse it with modern architecture. From that we get many simple cottage designs such as Craftsman, Gothic Revival, Classic Revival, Italianate and Queen Anne. There are also plenty of Adobe-style structures, inspired by the missionaries. A walking tour through Canby is pretty much a course in architectural revival, conjuring up an image of pioneers jumping off the rugged Oregon Trail to call Canby home.

Today, the idea of revival is once again prevalent in our minds. After isolation and a worldwide pandemic, people want to rediscover what matters to them and what is important to us all. They want to live, at least vicariously, in another time when community, family, nature, innocence and simplicity defined their lives. We renew and rediscover these ideas through life in the country, adjacent to nature, in small towns such as Canby and Aurora. Both peace and resilience are symbolized by a cottage-style structure, with its sturdy design, white picket fence, trellises and stone garden paths. Just to look at cottages lined up and down the street is to feel at ease with the state of the world, at least for a time.

I asked Mike Byrne, president of Aurora Mills Architectural Salvage, about the new interest in country-style architecture. He confirmed that architectural styles reflect the times. “At this juncture in society, people are seeking sanctuary in places safe in nature, full of flowers and life and healing.” Add the picket fence and the stone garden path, and you have Canby, Aurora and so many other small, country-adjacent towns.

Cottage Revival does harken back to a much older time. Farmers in Medieval Europe were called “Cotters.” Their quiet country cottages had stone facades, gabled roofs, thatched roofs, garden pathways and fat chimneys. Again, this is what our local denizens are blessed with every day. Of course, there were not-so-pleasant aspects of that time period too distubing to mention. But those sort of details always get in the way of nostalgia, which definitely has its place.

Some of our quaint Canby structures are well-known landmarks, such as the Stogstill-Knight House at 486 N.W. Second Ave., built in 1890. Others are perfect examples of a known style, such as the big yellow Craftsman home on the corner of N.W. Grant and Fifth. Still more have Gothic roofs, and Canby will always have its Queen Anne gates and picket fences. But whether you are renovating an old Canby home or adding a mother-in-law unit, the idea of home is the same. We remain, simply, close to nature.

For further information of Canby architecture, heritage and landmarks, as well as the Canby Historic Preservation Plan, visit